Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pollution and Essential Oils

I much prefer to only post happy news on here, however I have learned something that is worth sharing with you all, and apparently pollution is to blame.

As I had mentioned in a previous post, on homemade cleaning products, there was a small mention by the Environmental Working Group that had concerned me.  It was in the note they sent out that announced their new cleaning products guide.
 I found the small mention about essential oils causing formaldehyde to form very concerning, and started to make inquiries.  I called a reputable essential oil company.  Their sales person said that it was probably from low grade essential oils that often have other ingredients mixed in with them.  That particular company only sells medical grade and therapeutic grade essential oils.  I thought that made a reasonable amount of sense, but for your sake I wanted to make sure her answer was correct.

After a couple of emails and phone calls, the very busy, and small staffed EWG, I was able to get a response from their scientists.  Here is their answer...

Hello Natalie: Thanks for your question. I have asked our research team and come up with this answer for you:
Certain oils, such as lavender oil, are composed of compounds called terpenes. An example of a terpene is the chemical "linalool", which is a main component of lavender oil. When terpenes react with the air pollutant ozone, they can form formaldehyde. This is why people should avoid using cleaning products high in terpenes on smoggy days. So, formaldehyde is not found in the oil, but it can be formed after the product reacts with ozone. 
To read more about this you may refer to this California Air Resources Board document:
I hope you find this answer helpful
Natalie ApcarEnvironmental Working Group
1436 U Street, N.W., Suite 100Washington, DC 20009 202.667.6982
So from what I have gathered buying a higher quality essential oil is a good idea, but doesn't solve the formaldehyde issue.  The formaldehyde is formed from a natural element in the essential oil called a terpene.  When the terpenes react with pollution in the air then they form formaldehyde.  Darn pollution.

I haven't had the time to read the California Air Resource document, however you are welcome to if you'd like further information.

I plan to continue to use the essential oil products as I live in a low smog area, however I will take care not to breathe them in.  :P

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